Animal Crossing New Horizons Continues to Break Sales Records
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Animal Crossing New Horizons Continues to Break Sales Records

By Elizabeth Gibson for The J-Pop Exchange

On Thursday, November 26, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the social simulation game exclusively on Nintendo Switch, officially became the fastest ever game to reach six million physical sales in Japan's history.

According to a report issued by the Game Data Library, the game sold another 37,290 physical copies in Japan last week, taking its grand total to 6,011,308. This figure only factors in physical sales; it does not include digital download numbers, which may have been higher than usual considering the concerns around the COVID-19 virus. Nintendo does not share digital download data externally.

When it debuted in March, New Horizons became an instant global smash hit, in part thanks to the social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, according to Newzoo Platform -- a service that provides analytics and market research for games and esports -- around 75 percent of gamers surveyed in Japan played more games since March 2020, a direct result of COVID-19.

Only five games have ever reached six million physical sales in Japan. Other entries on the report, including Super Mario Bros. and Pokemon Gold and Silver, took over a year or more to hit the six-million-sold landmark. It took Animal Crossing: New Horizons just eight months. It’s now being speculated that Animal Crossing, at some point, may overtake Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as the best-selling Switch game of all time.

In its first week, New Horizons sold over 1.88 million physical copies in Japan, breaking the record previously held by the game Pokémon Sword and Shield for the biggest Switch game debut in the region. In Germany, the game achieved “platinum” recognition by the Association of the German Games Industry when it managed to break the 200,000 sales mark just days after its release. The game also smashed records in the U.K. when it sold more copies in its first-week sales than the launch sales of all previous Animal Crossing franchise games combined, including spin-offs.

New Horizons is the latest title in the Animal Crossing franchise published by Nintendo and created by Katsuya Eguchi and Hisashi Nogami. The Animal Crossing franchise as a whole is widely considered a commercially and critically successful series. Since its initial release in 2001, five Animal Crossing games have been released on different devices/consoles, as well as three spin-off games.

Only one game in the franchise has been considered a critical and commercial failure: a spin-off called Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, made for the Wii U. It was released in 2015 and only sold a total of 87,872 copies in Japan. It received negative reviews from critics for repetitive gameplay and was likened to an inferior clone of Mario Party.

After the failure of Amiibo Festival, the creators went back to the drawing board and released another Animal Crossing spin-off in 2017: a free mobile game with in-game microtransactions called Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which was made for iOS and Android devices. Pocket Camp has over 1 million downloads collectively on Google Play and the Apple App Store. In total, the Animal Crossing franchise has sold 59.74 million units worldwide.

Hisashi Nogami, Animal Crossing series producer, who has been at Nintendo since 1994, said this about the franchise in March during an interview with The Verge: “When Animal Crossing emerged 19 years ago, it was difficult to explain what it was within the framework of games up to that point. Although I believed it was fun, I was unsure whether many users would understand it. [But] I felt that the parts that were difficult to understand brought a uniqueness to the game and maybe why the games have been loved by fans for so long.”


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